Saturday, July 28, 2012

From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal-Dulcie Yelland, 1907-1987: A Socialist of Our Times- A Book Review

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Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forebears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

Markin comment:

I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts.

Charles Yelland, Dulcie Yelland, 1907-1987: A Socialist of Our Times, Gipton History Group, Leeds 1988, pp143, £2.50

This is an affectionate personal tribute by a retired printer to his late wife. It tells with wry humour and rich irony many reminiscences of their personal and political lives from the 1930s onwards. Here the picture is not of the Leeds working class deferentially accepting its lot, but of struggle in the labour, trade union and co-operative movements, centred on those past decades during which Labour could still hope to govern. Dulcie’s friends will not forget her humour and liveliness, of which the writer gives numerous reminders.

Yet, does not a book which opens with a foreword by Denis Healey, immediately followed by Dulcie’s favourite quotation from Trotsky (“Civilisation can be saved only by the proletarian revolution”) suggest unresolved problems?

Historians will do well not to overlook this unpretentious account. The author tells how Dulcie sympathised in the late 1930s with the Trotskyist view of the USSR as a degenerated workers’ state. But that is not the whole story. Dulcie was one of the early recruits whom Mary Archer won to the local cell of the Militant Group, which was then made up almost entirely of industrial workers, few of whose names history has recorded. She denounced the Moscow Trials when you needed courage to do so. But she understood that they raised political and not exclusively ‘moral’ questions, and campaigned as a Trotskyist, in the Labour Party, to ensure that the independence of the working class was not undermined by supporters either of ‘official’ Labour or of the Popular Front, or harnessed to the war aims of British imperialism.

Chapter Four does indeed describe, with relish, how during the Second World War, she organised into the trade union movement a series of engineering workplaces in Leeds, how wage rises were won and victimisations blocked, and how a notoriously anti-union boss had a heart attack. Her reputation as a shop steward lived on for many years.

But it omits to mention how she became a target for the Communist Party’s historic pamphlet, Clear out Hitler’s Agents, which in the event did not in the slightest weaken her support among her fellow workers.

She joined the Revolutionary Socialist League in 1938, supporting the leadership of Denzil Dean Harber and Starkey Jackson and, in the fusion of Spring 1944, joined the Revolutionary Communist Party, where she continued her mass activities.

Dulcie’s understanding of workers’ lives and minds contributed much to her immediate circle of comrades. After the war she tended, like many women militants, to turn back to family life after the separation and hardships; and, at the same time, the struggles among the Trotskyists for theoretical clarity in the largely unforeseen conditions of the late 1940s were going clown channels where she could not follow.

Unswerving in her sympathy for Trotsky’s ideas, she refused to be uprooted from the activity of her local Labour Party, in which she became absorbed for the benefit of the advancement of others in the apparatus rather than that of her own ideas. How often was she to hear that she could have commanded eminence – had she but had the ‘right’ rather than the ‘left’ ideas!

Chapter Six is a lively account of how Dulcie supported Vyvyan Mendelson’s motion at the 1957 Labour Party Conference. This sought to pledge a future Labour government to refuse to test, manufacture or use nuclear weapons, and took on not only the traditional pro-American right, but Aneurin Bevan and the Stalinists as well – but the book does not mention that the motion, from the Norwood Labour Party, was initiated by the ‘Healyites’, or that its attempt to place the workers’ movement in the leadership of the struggle against nuclear weapons was quickly followed by the interposition of CND.

It must be said that Dulcie, like her women comrades, did not let herself be over-impressed by leaders of either gender, however eminent or pretentious. There was no petty-bourgeois feminism among them. They took particular notice of the struggles of women workers, and they did not let men dominate them. But they saw the main enemy in the capitalist class and not in men as a gender.

On this political basis, Dulcie contributed frequently to the Newsletter in the later 1950s. The ‘turn’ of the Socialist Labour League (SLL) in 1964 out of the Labour Party was incomprehensible to her, but she continued to help the local comrades until the exclusion of close friends associated with Alan Thornett led her to distance herself from Healy’s apparatus. She had already become increasingly suspicious, not merely of the sectarian evolution of the SLL’s politics, but of the fabricated accounts of the history of Trotskyism in Britain on which he based his claim to predominance. From personal experience, Dulcie knew that these accounts were false, because they wrote out of history both the Workers International League (WIL) majority and all the experience of the tendency to which she had belonged.

Dulcie has been greatly missed by many, not least among militants far younger than herself. In 1983 she was one of the principal speakers at the memorial meeting in Leeds for Mary Archer, who had been her close personal friend for 45 years – and at least half of her audience were under thirty!

Charlie’s book is interestingly written, well produced and very reasonably priced. It is not merely a piece of local working class history ‘from below’; it raises questions which some may find at first disturbing and may feel moved to follow up. Dulcie may have relied heavily on her precious gifts of intuition and imaginative sympathy, which, alas, by themselves are no substitute for Marxism. But the spark which was ready in 1937-38 for Trotsky’s ideas to light, never burnt out.

John Archer

(The Gipton History Group can be contacted at 103 Gipton Gate East, Leeds LS9 6SU)

From The Pen Of American Communist James P. Cannon-Early Years of the American Communist Movement-Letters to a Historian-Origin of the Policy on the Labor Party (1923)

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James P. Cannon

Early Years of the American Communist Movement-Letters to a Historian-Origin of the Policy on the Labor Party


Source: Fourth International, Vol.16 No.2, Spring 1955, pp.56-58.
Original bound volumes of Fourth International and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


May 18, 1954

Dear Sir:

This replies to your inquiry of May 15 on the origins of the labor party policy.

I think this whole question of the party’s activity in farmer-labor party politics in the first half of the Twenties ought to be separated into two parts. First, the original policy and how it came to be adopted by the party; second, the perversions of this policy in the experiments, more correctly the fantastic adventures in this field, under the tutelage of Pepper. Here I will confine myself entirely to the first part of the subject – the origins of the labor party policy – reserving the second part for a separate report.

There is not much documentation on this question and I find that my memory is not so sharp as to details as it is on the fight over legalization. That is probably because the real fight was over legalization. The labor party policy, the development of the trade-union work, and the whole process of Americanizing the movement, were subsumed under that overall issue of legalizing the party. Insofar as they took a position on the related questions, the factions divided along the same lines.

With considerable effort I have to reconstruct my memory of the evolution of the labor party question in the American movement. I may err on some details or miss some. My general recollection however is quite clear and is not far wrong. The approach to the question zigzagged along a number of high points in about this order:

(1) To start with, the left wing of American socialism had been traditionally rigid and doctrinaire on all questions – revolution versus reform, direct action versus parliamentary action, new unions versus the old craft unions, etc. The publication of Lenin’s pamphlet on left communism marked the beginning of their comprehension that realistic tactics could flexibly combine activities in these fields without departing from basic revolutionary principle. We needed the Russians to teach us that.

(2) The first approach of the left wing to the question of the labor party was inflexibly sectarian and hostile. I recall an editorial by Fraina in the Revolutionary Age or in the Communist in 1919 or early 1920 against “laborism,” i.e., the policy and practice of the British Labor Party and the advocates of a similar party in this country, who were fairly numerous and vocal at that time. In that period Fraina, who was the most authoritative and influential spokesman of the left wing, was an ultra-leftist. He seemed to be allied with this tendency in the Comintern, which was centered around the Dutch communists and some German leftists. This tendency, as you know, was vigorously combatted and defeated by Lenin and Trotsky at the Third Congress of the Comintern (1921). (Incidentally, you will find Trotsky’s two volumes on The First Five Years of the Communist International, published by Pioneer Publishers, informative reading on this period. It impinges on America at least to this extent: that Trotsky polemicized against Pepper (Pogany), who had been in Germany with a Comintern delegation, and at that time was himself an ultra-leftist.)

This article or editorial by Fraina expressed the general attitude of the party, which was ultra-leftist all along the line in those days. Perhaps I recall this particular article or editorial because I was a quite pronounced “right winger” in the early Communist Party, and I thought that people who were advocating a labor party were a hell of a long way out in front of the labor movement as I knew it in the Midwest. However, I must say that it never occurred to me at that time that we could be a part of the larger movement for a labor party and remain communists. Engels’ perspicacious letters on this very theme were unknown to us in those days.

(3) The theoretical justification for such a complicated tactic – conditional support of a reformist labor party by revolutionists – came originally from Lenin. I think it is indisputable that Lenin’s proposal to the British communists that they should “urge the electors to vote for the labor candidate against the bourgeois candidate,” in his pamphlet on Left-Wing Communism, and his later recommendation that the British Communist Party should seek affiliation to the British Labor Party, gave the first encouragement to the sponsors of a similar policy in this country, and marks the real origin of the policy.

I don’t think this contradicts the statement you quote, from the Foster-Cannon document of November 26, 1924 – which was probably written by me and which I had long since forgotten – that the Comintern’s approval of a labor party policy in 1922 was obtained “mainly on the strength of the information supplied by our delegates, that there was in existence a strong mass movement towards a farmer-labor party.”

Lenin’s intervention in England provided the original justification for revolutionists to support a labor party based on the unions. Our contention in Moscow in 1922 was simply that a realistic basis existed for the adaptation of this policy to America. There was considerable sentiment in the country for a farmer-labor party at that time. The Chicago Federation of Labor was for it. The Farmer-Labor Party had had a presidential candidate in 1920, who polled about half a million votes.

It seemed to us – after we had assimilated Lenin’s advice to the British – that this issue would make an excellent basis for a bloc with the more progressive wing of the trade-union movement, and open up new possibilities for the legitimization of the communists as a part of the American labor movement, the expansion of its contacts, etc. But 1 don’t think we would have argued the point if we had not been previously encouraged by Lenin’s explanation that revolutionists could critically support a reformist labor party, and even belong to it, without becoming reformists.

(4) I do not recall that the question of a labor party was concretely posed in the factional struggle between the liquidators and the undergrounders-in-principle. The real issue which divided the party into right and left wings, was the legalization of the movement. On all subsidiary questions – labor party, realistic trade-union program, predominance of native leadership, Americanization in general – the right wing naturally tended to be for and the left wing against.

As far as I can recall, all the liquidators readily accepted the labor party policy. After the leftists had been completely defeated on the central question of party legalization, any resistance they might have had to the labor party policy collapsed. I do not recall any specific factional struggle over the labor party by itself.

(5) Furthermore, it was the Comintern that picked up our information and our advocacy of a labor party policy at the time of the Fourth Congress, and formulated it most clearly and decisively. I am quite certain in my recollection that the Comintern letter to the Communist Party of the US, announcing its decision in favor of the legalization of the movement, referred also to the labor party policy. The letter stated that the formation of a labor party in the US, based on the trade unions, would be “an event of world historical importance.”

If you will check this letter, which it seems to me was printed either in the Worker or the Communist early in 1923, I think you will find the definitive answer to the question of the origin of the labor party policy.

(6) Pepper certainly had no part in initiating the policy in Moscow “before and during the Fourth Congress.” He was in America at that time. In answer to your-question: “Or did he pick up that ball and run with it after. he came to the US?” – I would simply say, Yes, but fast; in fact he ran away with it.

(7) Valetski, the Comintern representative to the American party in 1922, was one of the leaders of the Polish Communist Party. I met him when he returned to Moscow after the Bridgeman Convention, and heard him speak in the American Commission several times. He did not fully support the liquidators and I had a number of clashes with him. His position after he returned to Moscow would indicate quite clearly that he had not been sent to America with a predetermined decision of the Comintern to support legalization. Rather the contrary.

The change of position and the eventual decision was made in Moscow as a result of our fight there and not on the recommendation of Valetski. He began to shift his position in the course of the debates, but he didn’t go all the way. He tried to get us to agree to a compromise to blunt the edge of the decision, but we refused. I recall Zinoviev saying privately to us, when we complained to him about Valetski’s position: “He is changing. but he is not fully on our line yet.”

Valetski was obviously a learned and quite able man. I think he had originally been a professor, but he apparently had a long record in the Polish movement. They had had all kinds of faction fights in the Polish party. His experience would have qualified him to be sent as representative of the Comintern to a young and comparatively inexperienced party torn to pieces by factional struggle.

Factionalism and faction fights are frequently derided by side-line critics as aberrations of one kind or another, a disease peculiar to the radical movement. But I never knew a political leader of any consequence who had not gone through the school of factional struggles. To be sure, I have also known factional fighters – quite a few of them – who were no good for anything else: who became so consumed by factionalism that they forgot what they started out to fight for. But that’s part of the overhead, I guess.

Yours truly,
James P. Cannon

P.S. I had never heard that Lenin raised the labor party question with Fraina in Moscow already in 1920. That is very interesting. I think it also supplies corroboration to my own conception, set forth above, that Lenin was the real originator of this policy. He must have turned over in his mausoleum, however, when he saw what was later done with his idea. – JPC


From The Pen Of American Communist Leader James P. Cannon-Campaign for a Labor Party! (1940)

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Fourth International, May 1940

James P. Cannon-Campaign for a Labor Party!

Source: Fourth International, Vol.4 No.8, August 1943, pp.230-235.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan.

1. Outline of Proposal for a Labor Party Campaign

EDITOR’S NOTE: This outline was introduced last November in the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, and has since been before the party for discussion.

We must make an important political turn without delay. It is time to start an aggressive campaign for the formation of an independent labor party, to transform the propaganda slogan into a slogan of agitation. This is the most important conclusion we must draw from the recent elections in the light of the present situation in the labor movement and the attitude of workers and the changes which are sure to come in the not distant future. The labor party is the central issue around which the drive of the workers for class independence can be best expressed in the next period. By becoming the active champion of the labor party the Socialist Workers Party will link itself to an instinctive class movement which is almost certain to have a tumultuous growth, and thus multiply its influence and recruiting power. A brief review of our experiences with the labor party slogan since its adoption in 1938 up to the recent elections will show that now is the time to strike.


The adoption of the labor party slogan in 1938 by the Socialist Workers Party was predicated on the stormy development of the elemental mass movement of the workers through the CIO and the assumption that this movement, in the next stage of its development, must seek a political expression. The enormous disproportion between the rate of growth of this mass movement of millions, and that of the vanguard party, showed that we could no longer hope for our party to be the medium for the first expression of political independent action by the mass of the workers.

We concluded that this first expression would take the form of an independent labor party! based on the trade unions. Hence, in order for us to link ourselves with the next stages of the political development of the American workers, we had to adapt ourselves to the trend toward a labor party; to work within it in order to influence its development in a revolutionary direction and, at the same time, build the Trotskyist party. Our estimation of the most probable next stages of development, and our reasoning as to the role our party would be obliged to play by the circumstances, were correct. The development was slower than we anticipated at that time. But if we examine the causes which slowed down the labor party development, it will be clear that the movement was only arrested, dammed up, so to speak, in order to break out with still greater strength after some delay. The causes for the delay were transitory and are already passing away.


Just about the time that we adopted our labor party position, the economic conjuncture began to improve. This checked the discontent of the workers which had been rising up till that time. Roosevelt still appeared to the workers as their champion and his social reform program was taken as a substitute for an independent political movement of the workers. At the same time, the entire leadership of the CIO, including the Stalinists, who had been the most aggressive proponents of the labor party idea, supported Roosevelt in a body. They squelched all organized expressions of the sentiment for an independent labor party. The labor party question was thus taken off the agenda of trade union meetings and conventions, and to superficial reasoners the movement seemed to be killed. The campaign of agitation for a labor party which we had planned did not find a favorable field in these circumstances. Foreseeing future developments, we did not abandon the slogan, but in our practical work we had to change it from a slogan of agitation to a slogan of propaganda.


War conditions – the huge preparatory development of the armaments industry and later the actual entry into the war – introduced two factors which served to militate against any immediate response to the labor party slogan. The preliminary war prosperity tended to dampen the interest of the workers in the labor party for the time being. They still regarded Roosevelt as their political champion and supplemented their support of him by economic action against individual employers and corporations.

Then began the process of blocking off this economic outlet of the workers’ struggle. By a combination of cajolery, threats and treachery – granting of some wage increases, institution of the War Labor Board, labor leaders’ pledges of no strikes – the workers have been stymied on the economic field. Once this was accomplished, wages were virtually frozen, while the cost of living rises at a scale which amounts, in essence, to a monthly wage cut. Meanwhile, the employers, taking advantage of the situation, resist the settlement of virtually all grievances. These grievances pile up in the pigeon-holes of the War Labor Board and the workers get no satisfaction.

The workers’ discontent is already evident and is bound to grow enormously as the cost of living mounts, as taxes and other burdens are piled upon them and they are denied corresponding wage increases, and they feel balked by the denial of the right to resort to the strike weapon. The entire history of the American labor movement shows that the workers tend to resort to independent political action when they find themselves defeated or frustrated on the economic field. There is every reason to believe that this tradition will assert itself more powerfully than ever in the coming period.


To a certain extent – positively, and especially negatively – the workers asserted a tendency to resort to independent political action already in the recent Congressional and State elections. For the first time the Gallup poll was badly upset and the calculations of all the political experts were refuted by a factor which had not been anticipated – the unprecedented abstention from voting by the workers. The smallness of the workers’ vote can be attributed, in part, to the military mobilization, the shifting of vast numbers of workers to new locations, their failure to register, etc. But a very important factor, if not the main factor, in the mass failure of the industrial workers to vote, was their attitude of indifference and cynicism toward the two capitalist parties.

On the other hand, in New York, where the leaders of the American Labor Party found themselves, much against their own desires, conducting an independent campaign, the workers turned out in great numbers to support the American Labor Party. In New York City the ALP polled 18 per cent of the vote, despite the fact that it had an unknown nonentity from Tammany Hall as a candidate, and despite the appeals of Roosevelt – and of Hillman, his chief labor lieutenant – for the Democratic ticket. The vote of more than four hundred thousand for the ALP in New York is a rather convincing demonstration of the deep sentiment of a considerable mass of workers in New York for independent political action.

In the Minnesota election somewhat the same phenomenon is to be observed. Despite the terrible disintegration of the upper circles of the Farmer-Labor Party there, the treachery of the Stalinists, the support of Stassen by the offical heads of the CIO and considerable sections of the AFL bureaucracy – despite all this, the Farmer-Labor Party polled a bigger percentage of the vote this year than was the case in 1940 or 1938.

From these two examples, we must conclude that a strong sentiment for independent political action by the workers reveals itself wherever they have a chance to express it through the medium of an independent party.

In the light of the election results in New York, the correctness of the position taken by our party in support of the ALP ticket, and the absurdity of the boycott policy of the Workers Party juveniles, are equally demonstrated. The Workers Party decided to boycott the ALP ticket just at the moment when it was demonstrating its greatest appeal to the workers under the most unfavorable conditions. We, on the other hand, by our policy, linked ourselves to the movement of the future. The lesson of this experience will not fail to impress itself on the minds of the class-conscious workers who are observing developments.


We should draw the following conclusions:
1.The elections in New York and Minnesota positively, and in the other states negatively, show the beginning of a trend of workers’ sentiment for independent political action.

2.The mass sentiment of the workers in this direction must grow tumultuously, as the gap widens between frozen, wages on the one side and rising prices, tax burdens and enforced contributions on the other.

3.The sentiment for independent political action may, and to a considerable extent will, take a very radical turn. To many workers, burning with indignation over grievances which cannot find an outlet for expression on the economic field, the demand for a labor party will signify in a general way the demand for a workers’ government – for a change in the regime!

4.The time is opportune right now for the SWP to start an aggressive campaign of agitation for an independent labor party. It would be a great political error to lose any time in establishing our position in the forefront of this movement.


Our campaign should be developed according to a carefully worked out practical program, designed to swing the entire party into activity and to mobilize its energies for the advancement of the campaign, step by step, in coordination with the tempo of the mass movement itself. The main points of such a practical program are approximately as follows:

1.Make the labor party the central campaign issue of the party in the next period.

2.Stage a formal launching of the campaign by means of a Plenum, an Eastern Conference, or a New York membership meeting at which a thoroughly worked-out motivating speech will be delivered and published as the opening gun in the campaign. The emanation of this published speech from some kind of a formal party gathering will give it more weight than a mere article or statement.

3.Our literary forces will have to be organized to prepare an abundance of propaganda material on the labor party question – factual, historical, argumentative and perspective. The propaganda material should include a comprehensive pamphlet and leaflets, as well as abundant material in the press. Our comrades in the trade unions must be adequately supplied with information and arguments to meet all opposition on the labor party question.

4.The campaign should be directed from the center in an organizational, as well as in a political way, following the developments of the work of each branch and giving systematic directions for next steps, and so forth.

5.At a given stage in the development of the campaign, we should go over to the formation of labor party clubs in the unions where circumstances make this feasible, and use these clubs as the center of organization for the labor party fight. These labor party clubs will tend to become, in effect, left-wing caucuses or progressive groups. At the right time, regulating the tempo of our campaign always in accordance with the internal situation in each particular union, we should begin to introduce labor party resolutions. If we can succeed at first in having a labor party resolution passed by a prominent and influential trade union local or body, we can then use this resolution as the model for other unions. From a practical standpoint there is a big advantage in being able to say to a local union that the proposed resolution is the one previously adopted by such and such a trade union organization on the labor party question. Our trade union department, in cooperation with the fractions, can work out this end of the matter without difficulty.

6.We must proceed according to the conviction that all developments in the trade union movement from now on must work in favor of the development of the labor party sentiment; that the slogan will become increasingly popular; and that we must become the leaders of the fight. Our labor party campaign can be the medium through which we bring the elementary ideas of class independence into the trade union movement. This is the indicated approach for the gradual introduction of our entire transitional program.


Our labor party campaign must be understood as having great implications for the building of our party. We must conceive of it as our third big political maneuver, the first being the fusion with the American Workers Party, and the second the entry into the Socialist Party. This maneuver will be different from the others, but the differences will be all in our favor, and the prospects of gain for our party are vastly greater.

1.This time we will undertake the maneuver with a much better internal situation in our own party. Each of the other maneuvers had to be undertaken at the cost of a fierce factional fight and split in our own ranks. This time, we can enter ihe campaign with completely unified cadres and without the slightest fear of any internal disturbances as a result of the step. On the contrary, the announcement of the campaign can be expected to call forth enthusiasm throughout the party and a unanimous response to the directions of the center.

2.The quality of the recruits, on the whole, which we will gain from the labor party maneuver will be different from the recruits gained by the fusion with the AWP and the entry into the SP. To be sure, in each of the other two cases we were dealing with the prospect of recruiting politically more advanced people than we will gain directly from the trade unions in the labor party campaign. But in return, the recruits from the other two ventures were in the majority centrists who brought with them the baggage of bad training and tradition and pre-conceived prejudices. That was why the attempt to assimilate them into the Trotskyist movement produced in each case a second factional fight and split. The heterogeneous composition of the Trotskyist cadre of those times also hampered this work of assimilation. The Abern clique based itself on the backward section of the Musteites, and both Abern and Shachtman (not to mention Burnham!) based themselves on the unassimilated elements from the SP and the Yipsels.

From the labor party campaign we will get fresh workers whose political education will begin with us. They will come in as individuals without factional attachments from the past, and their assimilation and education will be facilitated by the united cadre of our present party which, in the meantime, has accumulated considerably more political experience.

The third important difference between the labor party campaign and the two previous political turns we have made is in the magnitude of the prospects. This time we must think in terms of thousands – and eventually of tens of thousands – of recruits who will come in to our party from the labor party movement. And, given the facts that they will come to us not as a previously constituted faction or party, but as individual recruits; that they will enter a party which is homogeneous in its composition, whose unified cadres have serious political experiences behind them, we can confidently expect to assimilate the new members without an internal crisis.

There is no doubt that the key to the further development in the next period of our party and the expansion of its membership lies in the self-confidence, speed and energy with which we plunge into an organized labor party campaign. Big successes are possible for us along this line; even probable, I would say. Naturally, we cannot promise ourselves any miracles overnight. There will be favorable returns from our campaign from the very start, but we must plan a long-time fight.

We can expect big results within a reasonable time. But even the first big results will only be a down payment on the unbounded prospects which lie ahead of us along this road. The modest recruiting campaign we are now conducting should be conceived, in the light of a labor party campaign, as a mere curtain-raiser. We may hope to recruit thousands in the course of the labor party campaign, and our work from the start should be inspired by this confidence.

New York, November 25, 1942.

2. Remarks on the Labor Party Campaign

(A speech at the Political Committee meeting of November 30, 1942)

You all have the outline. I don’t have much to add except that some of the points can be elaborated.

The first point, abount changing the slogan from a propaganda slogan to a slogan of agitation, I think is an important one to understand. In our work, generally, we ought to distinguish between three types of slogans: slogans of propaganda, slogans of agitation, and slogans of action. A perfectly correct slogan can be either effective or ineffective according to how it is applied in a given situation.

For example, the slogan of workers’ defense guards during the height of the fight with the Coughlinites, Silver Shirts, Nazi Bundists, etc., was a slogan of agitation, in some cases leading directly to action. But with the temporary slowing down of this fascistic movement, we have moderated the tempo with which we press the slogan of workers’ defense guards. The practical necessity for them is not clear to the workers. It is now a propaganda slogan. We don’t conduct an active campaign because there is not enough response in the present situation. A little later, when reaction gets more aggressive, and the labor movement runs up against fascistic hooliganism again, we will have to renew our agitation for the guards.

Similarly, with the labor party. We have been talking about the labor party, but only in an educational, that is propagandistic way because the movement didn’t seem to have any wind in its sails during the last year or two. In the next period things will be different. We draw this conclusion from two points of view.

The fundamental point of view: the situation in which the workers find themselves – with increasing pressure and difficulties upon them, and the fact that they are stymied on the economic field – must push them into the direction of political expression through a labor party. We should anticipate this and begin to prepare our campaign so as to get full prominence in the movement.

The second, subsidiary, point of view: the results of the elections, especially the negative demonstration, showing the indifference of the workers to the Republican and Democratic Parties, should be construed as the preliminary symptoms of a movement in the direction of an independent political expression.

Now is the time, in my opinion, for us to begin beating the drums for a labor party, with the confidence that we are going to get a response, if not right away, a little later. The more active we are right now, when no other tendency in the labor movement is agitating the question, the more we will gain.

Point 3 under section 5 of the outline is a very important point. When the workers begin to make a break from the capitalist parties toward a labor party, it is quite possible that they will not give it the reformistic connotation which has been associated in the past with the labor party, but that it will symbolize to them, even if vaguely, a break with the whole regime and a move for a new one, a regime of workers’ power. This idea was first mentioned by Warde when he came back from Detroit. The more I have thought about it, the more it has impressed me as a very plausible deduction. Under present conditions the labor party idea can have far more revolutionary implications than in past periods when it was advanced as a reformistic measure.

There is no need at all for us to speak about a reformistic labor party. What we are advocating is an independent labor party, and we are proposing our own program, which is not reformist. In the past, the assumption has always been that a labor party would surely be a reformist manifestation. It may, in some instances. But in others it may have a more profound meaning in the minds of many workers who adopt the slogan. In England, for example, the slogan of “Labor to Power” has no doubt the same double meaning for many workers. For some it can mean a purely moderate demand that the reformist labor leaders take over the government as agents of the bourgeois regime. For others it can indicate a call to the workers to take power and change the whole system. These things should be taken into account when we weigh the feasibility and effectiveness of the labor party slogan in the present situation.

It is very important that a resolution or other political document considered by the National Committee be clearly motivated; that it be completely objective and properly proportioned. That is, it shouldn’t be an “agitational” document in any sense of the word. I have this conception about all documents concerning policy and line and if my outline proposal appears to contain agitational optimism, I don’t mean it in that sense at all. The outline is intended as an objective appraisal, from my point of view, of the situation and perspectives.

Comrade Henderson has reminded us of Trotsky’s conception that the economic basis for a successful reformist labor party is undermined. That, of course, is the materialistic foundation for the idea which Warde expressed – that the workers will take the move for a labor party, in a vague way at least, as having revolutionary implications.

I don’t speak in the outline about existing labor parties, because our tactics in these cases can be easily decided. Naturally, we are not going to propose to start a new labor party in New York or Minnesota. We work within the existing parties. But I should point out, however, that we haven’t been working within the ALP. The clubs are scattered all over the five boroughs. The Stalinists are quite active in these clubs and so are the Social Democrats; but we have not gotten around to them yet. Where there are existing parties, we certainly must participate in them if our campaign is to have any serious meaning.

When I speak of labor party clubs in the outline, I don’t mean them in the sense of these ALP clubs. These latter are Assembly District organizations required by law, the legal basis for the election machinery. The labor party clubs suggested in the document are groups formed in the unions to fight for the labor party. For example, in a progressive local union a club would be formed for the object of propagating the idea of the labor party in the local. Such clubs will, in the nature of things, become the natural centers of left-wing organization. They will represent a direct challenge to the whole regime – to the state administration, as well as the trade union bureaucracy – without exceeding, in a formal sense, the legalistic bounds. I have the idea that these labor party clubs can become in the next period a tremendous mechanism for the building of the left wing in the unions.

The question has been raised in the discussion whether there is a trend or only the beginning of a trend toward the labor party, whether the election results are exaggerated in the outline. I tried to state it very carefully, that the elections should be taken as representing the beginning of a trend. I emphasized the negative manifestations – that is, the abstention of the workers from voting throughout the rest of the country – more strongly even than the positive vote for the labor party in New York and Minnesota. Obviously, it is not yet a very conscious movement for a labor party. But it is a half-break with the old parties, and that necessarily has its logic. This, together with the fact that we are all confident the next period must promote a politicalization of the workers, justifies us in asserting that there is the beginning of a trend toward a powerful labor party movement.

The ALP vote keeps coming up to plague those who have any reservations in this regard. The fact is that the ALP got 400,000 votes in New York, under the most unfavorable conditions. The leaders were scared of themselves; the candidate, a Tammany hack, had never been heard of before; the pressure of Roosevelt and of Hillman, who was, you may say, the co-founder of the party, swung the whole bureaucracy of the Amalgamated away from the ALP. In spite of all that, the ALP got 18 per cent of the votes in New York City and over 10 per cent of the votes in the state. That must signify something. I think it has to be taken as signifying in part that these workers – those who voted the ALP ticket were mainly workers – have something in mind different from the old idea of voting for the Democratic party.

I don’t think it would be correct to say these are votes against Roosevelt. I would venture to say that 90 per cent of them are still pro-Roosevelt. But this vote shows that the workers, still largely for Roosevelt, are not for the Democratic Party. That is the important thing. They don’t give a hoot for the Democratic Party. All during the time they were led in behind Roosevelt, they weren’t led in behind the Democratic Party. On the contrary, their hostility is perhaps greater today than before. I think if you look back at this period of the Roosevelt regime you will see that Labor’s Non-Partisan League, the ALP in New York, and other manifestations showed that even then, in order to dragoon the workers to support Roosevelt, they had to provide some kind of labor or pseudo-labor machinery for it. They couldn’t just unfurl the banner and say, Vote for Roosevelt.

This election was the greatest test of all. The workers in New York – 400,000 of them – stood up independently for the first time. I can’t read anything else into this ALP vote except a strengthening of the impulse of the workers to have a party of their own.

What I Mean by a “Maneuver”

I come to a point here which has been discussed and which I am quite insistent upon: that I want to describe this proposed labor party campaign as a maneuver, comparing it to the two other big maneuvers we carried through: the fusion of the Trotskyist organization with the AWP and the entry into the SP. Of course, I don’t mean to equate the labor party campaign with the fusion and the entry. It is not the same thing at all. But it is the same kind of thing.

What do we mean by a maneuver? It is a tactical turning aside from a predetermined path which has been blocked off in order to accomplish the original objective, to reach the same goal by another road. The thing in common between the proposed labor party campaign and the other two maneuvers in our history is that which is basic: the attempt to build a revolutionary party through another party.

Normally and logically, when you organize a party and adopt a program and invite people to join it, that is the way you build up a party – by recruiting people directly. We came up against the fact in 1934, however, that there was another group developing on the left-wing road. They didn’t come over to us, so we had to go over to meet them. This fusion with the AWP was a departure from the line of direct recruitment. Similarly was the entry into the SP. It was a maneuver, a turning away from the path of building the party by direct recruitment, because a certain set of circumstances confronted us where the most eligible and logical candidates for Bolshevism refused to come into this party. We had to turn about and join them. In the same sense, the united front can be called a maneuver. In the early days of its existence the Comintern reached a certain stalemate in its struggle against the Social Democracy. The majority remained in the Social Democratic ranks and didn’t come over and join the Communist Party. Then the Comintern devised the medium of the united front as a means of approach to the Social Democratic workers. This was not a fusion or an entry, but a coming together for concrete actions for specific immediate aims, etc.

What are we trying to do here? It was not a historic law that we must have a labor party in this country, and that we have to become advocates of it and work within it. As a matter of fact, in the early days of our movement Trotsky refused to sanction the advocacy of the labor party. He said It is not yet determined whether the workers will seek their first political expression through a revolutionary party or through a reformist party based on the unions, and we should advocate the revolutionary party based on individual membership. The socialist movement over most of Europe and the world was built up that way. It was only during the stormy development of the CIO, which began to show political manifestations, when it became pretty obvious that the rate of development of this new mass movement of the CIO was so much faster in tempo and greater in scope than the development of the Socialist Workers Party – it was only then that the Old Man revised his conclusion.

The new movement of the masses was developing outside the SWP, on a vastly wider scale. This trend is even clearer now than it was in 1938 when Trotsky first recommended the labor party tactic. In order for us not to be left on the sidelines, we have to go into the labor party movement without giving up our own independent organization. That is what is contemplated in this proposal here. We are going to try, once again, to build our party through another party. We will be inside of it for a long time, although not in the same technical and precise way as in the other two maneuvers. This time there will be no fusion, and no entry. We will maintain the independence of our party all the time. But in some places we can conceive of the SWP being affiliated to the labor party; in other places, where we may be denied entrance as a party, we will participate in the labor party through the unions, etc. But, in every variant, we will be trying to build a revolutionary party through a political movement of the masses which is not yet clearly defined as revolutionary, or reformist, or in between.

From an internal point of view, it is very important, in my opinion, to explain to the membership that we conceive this campaign as a maneuver. On the one hand, we must show them the great scope of its possibilities; on the other hand, that we are maintaining our independence all the time. And we are working, not to build the labor party as a substitute for our party, but to build our party as the party that must lead the revolution. The labor party may never come to full-fledged shape at all. The conflict of the two wings – the revolutionary and the reformist – can reach such a state of tension that the movement will split before the party is fully formed on a national scale. I can even conceive of the existence of two kinds of labor parties for a certain time – a labor party with a revolutionary program and a labor party with a reformist program – which would engage in election contests against each other.

A Political Turn

In the past, under the pressure of circumstances, parties based on the unions have taken a far more radical turn than the ordinary reformist conceptions. The Norwegian Labor Party was almost a replica, in its structure, of the British Labor Party. But, following the war, it formally adopted the communist program and joined the Comintern. The Comintern tried to transform it from a loose party based on delegates from unions into an individual membership party. In the process, eventually, a split took place and the Norwegian Communist Party was carved out of the body of the Norwegian Labor Party. When the revolutionary tide receded and the mass of the workers returned to reformism, things fell back into their old place again. The developments of the labor party movement in the United States, with the stormy developments of the class struggle which are clearly indicated, will least of all follow a predetermined pattern.

I think it is correct to characterize what is proposed here as a political turn. A campaign of agitation, as is proposed, requires a radical change in our activity and, to a certain extent, in our attitude. We have to stir the party from top to bottom with discussion on the labor party question and show the party members that they have now a chance to participate in a fight, in a movement. We should aim to inspire them with the perspectives of the big possibilities which are by no means stated in an exaggerated fashion. At the appropriate time our comrades will begin moving in the unions step by step; perhaps to form a labor party club, perhaps to introduce a resolution, perhaps to circularize this resolution to other places, according to circumstances in each case. All this represents a turn from what we have been doing up to now in our purely routine propaganda in the press without pressing or pushing the issues in the unions.

If we had been imbued with this conception a few months ago we would have taken a different attitude in the New York election. We would have been campaigning for the labor party in New York from the very beginning if we had been as sure then of what was going on as we are now. I personally couldn’t support such an idea then because I didn’t know; I needed the results of the election to convince me that the ALP was not going to fall apart. It is clear now that we underestimated its vitality.

Comrade Charles has pointed out that the trend of the war, the Allied victories, promoting reaction on the one side, will also provoke more resentment and discontent, and perhaps revolt, in one form or another, by the workers. The assumption is that, in general, there will be a sharpening of the class struggle. How can this manifest itself in the next period? Possibly there will be a wave of outlaw strikes. But I think its strongest manifestation will be in the political field. The two may go together. But, in any case, we should absolutely count on a sharpening of the class struggle and help to give it a political expression.

We must appraise correctly the workers’ attitude toward Roosevelt. I believe, also, that the abstention of the workers from the elections in the big industrial centers, did not signify a break with Roosevelt. It showed that they want to make a distinction between Roosevelt’s social reforms and the Democratic Party’s war program. Their tendency is to support the war under the leadership of Roosevelt, in payment for the social reforms they think they got from him. The thing they consider most is the social reform program. From their standpoint, at the present time, the ideal political situation would be a labor party with Roosevelt at the head of it. Their sentiment is for a labor political expression, but they haven’t broken with Roosevelt. We have to be very careful that we don’t over-estimate that question or conclude that the elections showed a break with Roosevelt.

The “New Deal” of Roosevelt was a substitute for the social reform program of Social Democracy in the past. That was the basis of its hold on the workers. The bankruptcy of the New Deal can’t possibly, in my opinion, push the workers back into an acceptance of traditional capitalist party politics. Their next turn will be toward a labor party.

Once more about kinds of slogans: We must carefully explain to the party the difference between a propaganda slogan and agitational slogan, and an agitational slogan and a slogan of action. I am especially sensitive on this because, in the early days of the Communist Party, in those furious debates we used to have on the labor party, we fell into all kinds of mistakes on the question. In a situation such as there has been in the past few years, the labor party could only be a propaganda slogan. If we had been beating the drums all over the labor movement and tried to form labor party clubs, we would have simply broken our heads. The time was not ripe, there was not enough response, to justify intense agitation for the labor party. It was necessary to confine it to a propaganda slogan. But now there are possibilities, and even probabilities, of a rising sentiment of the workers and a favorable response to a concentrated agitation for the labor party. In the new situation we would make the greatest error if we were to lag behind events and continue with the routine propaganda of the past period.

There is a difference also between slogans of agitation and slogans of action. This is illustrated by one of the classic errors of the early communist movement in the United States. Propaganda for the idea of Workers’ Soviets is, now as always, a principle of the program. But in 1919 the editors of the New York Communist, growing impatient, issued the slogan of action in a banner headline: “Organize Workers’ Councils.” Sad to say, the Soviets did not materialize. The slogan of action was premature and discredited its authors.

It wouldn’t be out of order, in connection with the educational preparation of the party for this campaign, if we impart to the whole membership a better understanding of the different ways of applying slogans – as slogans of propaganda, of agitation, or of action – according to the situation, as it is in reality.

Spartacist Canada No. 173- Summer 2012-La grève étudiante secoue le Québec-Mobilisez la puissance de la classe ouvrière !

Spartacist Canada No. 173- Summer 2012

La grève étudiante secoue le Québec-Mobilisez la puissance de la classe ouvrière !

1er juin—Après l’adoption par le gouvernement libéral du Québec de la loi 78, communément appelée « loi des matraques », la grève combative des étudiants commencée en février s’est transformée en une crise sociale profonde. Cette loi d’urgence, instaurée le soir du 18 mai, qui interdit toute manifestation à l’intérieur ou à l’extérieur des établissements d’enseignement, restreint sévèrement les autres manifestations et prévoit de lourdes amendes pour tous groupes ou personnes faisant fi de ses restrictions. Il est même illégal d’appeler à ces manifestations, tout comme il l’est de soutenir une grève dans un campus universitaire ou cégep !

Le soir du 18 mai, au moins 10 000 étudiants et sympathisants sont descendus dans la rue à Montréal. La police a déclaré « illégales » les manifestations des nuits suivantes, procédant à un nombre massif d’arrestations. Au total, durant cette grève étudiante, plus de 2500 personnes ont été arrêtées, ce qui dépasse déjà de beaucoup le nombre d’arrestations survenues en vertu de la Loi sur les mesures de guerre d’octobre 1970, quand Ottawa a suspendu les libertés civiles et jeté des centaines de militants de gauche, de nationalistes et de dirigeants syndicaux en prison pour tenter de réprimer un énorme mouvement contestataire au Québec.

Il est clair qu’en intensifiant la répression et en prévoyant des amendes astronomiques, le gouvernement du Québec espérait mettre fin à la contestation étudiante et casser la grève. Mais c’est tout le contraire qui s’est produit. Le 22 mai à Montréal, au moins 300 000 personnes ont pris part à la manifestation. Parmi elles se trouvaient des milliers de syndiqués marchant sous leurs banderoles ainsi qu’un grand nombre d’enseignants, de parents et d’élèves du secondaire. Etant donné la mobilisation gigantesque et l’imposante présence de contingents syndicaux, les flics n’ont pas pu réprimer la manif et ce, malgré le fait que la fédération étudiante CLASSE ait refusé d’en annoncer le trajet, ce qui rendait la marche « illégale » en vertu de la loi 78.

La CLASSE avait appelé les autres organisations opposées à la loi d’urgence à la rejoindre dans son acte de défiance. Mais la bureaucratie syndicale, les autres organisations étudiantes en grève et les dirigeants de l’organisation nationaliste petite-bourgeoise Québec Solidaire ont répondu qu’ils ne pouvaient appuyer que des manifestations « pacifiques et légales ». Ceci n’a nullement empêché une forte majorité des manifestants d’emboîter le pas à la CLASSE lorsque la manif s’est scindée en deux au bout de dix minutes.

Malgré un tollé quotidien dans la presse bourgeoise contre la « violence » des étudiants, les sondages indiquent que la majorité des francophones est opposée à la loi d’urgence. On voit partout à Montréal des gens portant le carré rouge, symbole de la lutte étudiante. Quand la manif du 22 mai est passée devant un grand hôpital du centre-ville, des patients âgés en chaise roulante, connectés à des intraveineuses et arborant des carrés rouges, ont applaudi et levé le poing. Les manifestants leur ont répondu avec des hourras ressentis.

Chaque soir, comme le faisaient les manifestants chiliens lors de leurs récentes grèves étudiantes, des marches de casseroles contre la loi 78 déambulent dans les quartiers de Montréal et d’autres villes. Et pourtant, malgré cette colère généralisée des travailleurs contre le gouvernement libéral, il n’y a rien eu de plus que d’occasionnels cortèges syndicaux dans les manifestations. La puissance potentielle des syndicats du Québec n’a pas été mobilisée. Pour renverser les attaques de la classe capitaliste contre les étudiants, les travailleurs, les minorités ethniques et les démunis, il est absolument nécessaire de mettre en branle le pouvoir social du mouvement ouvrier.

Les négociations entre le gouvernement et les associations étudiantes ont été rompues le 31 mai. Les étudiants ont rejeté une offre insultante proposant de diminuer la hausse des frais de scolarité de 1 dollar (!). Le premier ministre libéral Jean Charest a ensuite brandi la menace de la répression et accusé la CLASSE d’être « des gens qui menacent les Québécois » (La Presse, 1er juin). Nous reproduisons ci-dessous un supplément du 17 mai de Spartacist Canada, dont des milliers de copies ont été distribuées lors de manifestations à Montréal.


La grève étudiante de 2012 est la plus longue de l’histoire du Québec. Plus de trois mois après le début de la grève, environ 160 000 étudiants sont encore en grève, boycottent les cours, organisent des lignes de piquetage pour fermer les universités et les cégeps, souvent au mépris d’injonctions judiciaires. Il y a eu plus d’un millier d’arrestations et les manifestants subissent des agressions policières brutales pratiquement chaque jour.

La lutte étudiante a intersecté et exacerbé une crise sociale croissante au Québec. Le Parti libéral de Jean Charest actuellement au pouvoir est extrêmement impopulaire et empêtré dans les scandales. Le rassemblement de 200 000 personnes à Montréal le 22 mars, pour soutenir les étudiants en grève, était l’une des plus grosses manifestations de l’histoire du Canada. Un mois plus tard, alors que la manif du Jour de la Terre consiste habituellement en rien de plus qu’une sorte de marche de charité, celle-ci a rassemblé 250 000 personnes, dont beaucoup ont repris des mots d’ordre à la fois contre les Libéraux du Québec et contre les Conservateurs du gouvernement fédéral.

La grève témoigne de l’ampleur de la colère et de la révolte parmi les jeunes Québécois, qui ont poursuivi cette lutte importante en dépit de la répression brutale de l’Etat et des calomnies de la presse bourgeoise. Il y a de bonnes raisons d’être en colère vu l’énorme taux de chômage et de pauvreté parmi les jeunes au Québec. Cependant, cette bataille qui dure depuis plusieurs mois a aussi fait clairement apparaître les limites d’une lutte qui n’a pas été reliée à la puissance sociale de la classe ouvrière.

Partout dans le monde, les gouvernements capitalistes cherchent à faire payer aux ouvriers et aux opprimés la crise financière, qui est une conséquence directe du système de profit bourgeois. Les Conservateurs de Harper se sont attaqués aux syndicats à Postes Canada, Air Canada et ailleurs, et ont imposé des mesures d’austérité aux travailleurs du secteur public. Les ouvriers au Québec ont eu à affronter les cassages de grève de Quebecor, d’Aveos, de Rio-Tinto et d’autres. La grève étudiante, provoquée par le projet du gouvernement Charest d’augmenter les droits de scolarité de 75 pour cent, fait en quelque sorte exception à la guerre unilatérale que mènent les patrons contre les ouvriers et les opprimés.

La bourgeoisie et ses porte-paroles dans les médias pestent contre la « violence » et « l’irresponsabilité » des étudiants. Pourtant, au Québec depuis quelques années la vénalité de la bourgeoisie s’étale au grand jour. Il y a eu une série interminable de révélations de corruption impliquant des maires et des ministres libéraux, et même la ministre de l’Education Line Beauchamp, qui a démissionné sous la pression de la grève étudiante. Toute cette corruption, ainsi que les révélations quotidiennes sur les pots de vin illégaux des sociétés du bâtiment et d’ingénierie, contraste fortement avec le courage et la vitalité des militants étudiants. La fameuse taxe non officielle des « cinq pour cent » sur la construction publique, qui se retrouve dans les poches de divers agents de la mafia et des Hells Angels, et qui les aide à leur tour à financer des politiciens bien disposés envers eux, est une pratique vieille comme le monde au Québec. Le Parti libéral fédéraliste est particulièrement sans vergogne, mais ce type d’opération se déroulait aussi quand le Parti Québécois était au pouvoir. Quant aux frères ennemis, les flics de la SPVM de Montréal et de la Sûreté du Québec, dont la brutalité est légendaire, ils ne se sont jamais si bien entendu que lorsqu’il s’agit de tabasser les étudiants.

Depuis les bancs de l’opposition, le PQ nationaliste-bourgeois prétend soutenir les étudiants afin d’améliorer ses chances électorales contre Charest. Ce n’est qu’une manœuvre cynique de la part de ce parti qui a accusé tout récemment les libéraux de réduire les dépenses trop « timidement » pour équilibrer le budget. Le PQ a lui-même tenté d’augmenter les frais de scolarité lorsqu’il était au gouvernement dans les années 1990. Cela faisait partie de son offensive contre les ouvriers et les programmes sociaux dans le cadre du « Déficit Zéro ». De toute façon, la dirigeante du PQ Pauline Marois promet seulement un gel temporaire des frais de scolarité si elle devenait premier ministre.

Etudiants : Alliez-vous à la classe ouvrière !

Dans les années 1960, lorsque le Québec s’est libéré du joug des anglo-capitalistes de Westmount et de leurs alliés de l’Eglise catholique, l’éducation était l’un des principaux champs de bataille. Des luttes syndicales avaient longtemps cherché à rendre l’enseignement supérieur accessible à la jeunesse ouvrière francophone. Comme le notait Patrick Lagacé dans un article du Globe and Mail du 4 mai soutenant les étudiants : « il y a 50 ans, le Québec était plus proche d’un pays du tiers-monde que d’un pays développé, à en juger par les statistiques du niveau d’enseignement ». Cinquante quatre pour cent de ceux qui avaient 25 ans en 1962 n’avaient pas terminé la sixième année, et sept pour cent seulement avaient été à l’université. Le développement et la laïcisation de l’enseignement — un des principaux aspects de la « Révolution tranquille » — faisait partie d’une campagne de modernisation de l’élite francophone qui voulait être « maîtres chez nous » et créer une bourgeoisie québécoise ainsi qu’une couche de professionnels et de technocrates québécois.

Aujourd’hui, même si le Québec est toujours subordonné en tant que nation au sein de l’Etat canadien anglo-chauvin, des sociétés québécoises comme Bombardier, SNC-Lavalin et Quebecor sont capables de faire concurrence aux multinationales américaines et européennes à l’échelle mondiale. Et dans leur course aux profits, les gouvernements tant du parti libéral que du PQ s’attaquent sans cesse à la classe ouvrière et aux opprimés, y compris en effectuant des coupes sombres dans les budgets de la santé, de l’enseignement et d’autres programmes sociaux.

Les capitalistes ne sont prêts à investir dans l’enseignement public que dans la mesure où ils peuvent en tirer des profits. Ces profits sont le produit du travail des ouvriers, la plus-value que la bourgeoisie leur arrache en les exploitant. Etant donné son rôle central dans la production sociale, la classe ouvrière est la seule qui a la puissance sociale de mettre le système capitaliste à genoux en refusant son travail. Les étudiants, en tant que couche petite-bourgeoise sans lien direct à la production, n’ont pas cette capacité. La lutte étudiante peut certainement déclencher des batailles sociales plus générales, comme le montre la grève actuelle. Mais au bout du compte, la seule solution c’est de s’allier à la classe ouvrière.

Les ouvriers, eux, ont tout intérêt à soutenir activement les étudiants en lutte. Notamment en exigeant que l’enseignement soit gratuit pour tous et de bonne qualité, et que les étudiants reçoivent un salaire. Pour contrer la dette de plus en plus importante des étudiants envers les banques, nous demandons l’abolition de la dette étudiante. Il faut chasser les flics qui occupent actuellement un certain nombre d’universités et de collèges. Nous demandons l’abolition des administrations, dont le rôle est d’imposer la loi des capitalistes au sein des universités. Les cégeps et les universités doivent être gérés par les étudiants, les enseignants et les employés !

On ne pourra mettre fin pour de bon à toutes les attaques contre les ouvriers et les pauvres que dans une lutte politique généralisée centrée sur la puissance sociale de la classe ouvrière. Pour cela il faut que les militants comprennent que le système capitaliste doit être balayé dans son intégrité et remplacé par une société socialiste égalitaire qui servira les besoins de l’humanité et non pas les profits privés. Seule une révolution ouvrière peut arracher les moyens de production des mains des criminels bourgeois qui exploitent la classe ouvrière et sa jeunesse. Pour mener cette lutte à la victoire, il faut forger des partis révolutionnaires d’avant-garde, c’est-à-dire des partis trotskystes, dans le monde entier.

Les étudiants, les travailleurs et la bureaucratie syndicale

Le soutien à la grève étudiante et l’hostilité au gouvernement Charest se sont fait sentir pendant toute la durée du conflit. C’est à l’honneur de la majorité des enseignants et des professeurs syndiqués touchés par la grève qu’ils aient refusé de traverser les lignes de piquetage des étudiants malgré les injonctions judiciaires qui les encourageaient à le faire. Cependant, la bureaucratie syndicale nationaliste, tout en prétendant soutenir les étudiants, n’a pas levé le petit doigt pour mobiliser les travailleurs dans des grèves contre les attaques du gouvernement Charest. Au contraire, les dirigeants syndicaux ont travaillé dur pour rétablir « la paix sociale ». L’entente du 5 mai visant à mettre fin à la grève étudiante a été négociée par Gilles Duceppe, l’ancien dirigeant du Bloc Québécois, et par les dirigeants des trois principales fédérations syndicales. Elle a vite été rejetée par les étudiants dans tout le Québec.

La bureaucratie syndicale, en soutenant les nationalistes-bourgeois du PQ et du Bloc, enchaîne les ouvriers québécois au système capitaliste. C’est aussi le cas des dirigeants de la Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) et de la Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), qui sont alliés aux dirigeants syndicaux dans l’Alliance sociale. La majorité des étudiants grévistes font partie de la CLASSE (Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante), un syndicat étudiant plus à gauche influencé par des anarchistes. Dans un appel daté de fin avril et intitulé « Vers une grève sociale », la CLASSE faisait remarquer :

« Les étudiantes et étudiants en grève sont conscients de leur impuissance à faire reculer seul le gouvernement sur ces divers mesures. D’où la nécessité pour le mouvement étudiant de s’adjoindre de l’ensemble des forces sociales dans sa lutte contre la révolution culturelle de Bachand [ministre des Finances]. Nous ne faisons pas ici un appel à un appui de façade où quelques permanents syndicaux rédigent un communiqué pour réitérer une énième fois leur appui à la lutte étudiante…. C’est, donc, un appel à la grève sociale que nous lançons à l’ensemble de la population ! »

Il est en effet absolument nécessaire d’unir les étudiants en lutte et la puissance sociale de la classe ouvrière. Mais les appels à la solidarité lancés par la CLASSE ne sont pas liés à la perspective plus large de lutte ouvrière contre le capitalisme. Tout comme la FEUQ et la FECQ, ils ne font en fin de compte que chercher des moyens d’améliorer l’enseignement dans le cadre du système capitaliste. Ainsi, l’entente éphémère signée par toutes les fédérations étudiantes le 5 mai tentait de compenser l’augmentation des frais d’inscription en faisant des « économies » dans les budgets des universités et des collèges individuels. Cela revient à accepter encore plus d’austérité dans l’enseignement, et cela pourrait bien se retourner contre les employés des universités et des cégeps sous forme de diminution de salaires et même de licenciements.

La solution déborde du domaine « normal » de la politique étudiante et syndicale, qui se limite strictement à ce qui est « réalisable » sous le capitalisme. Pour lutter contre la trahison des dirigeants syndicaux, il faut une opposition dans les syndicats qui veuille mener la lutte des classes et soit prête à mettre en branle l’immense pouvoir potentiel de la classe ouvrière en défense de toutes les victimes du système de profit bourgeois. Entre autres, cela veut dire défendre les droits des immigrés et des minorités ethniques et religieuses, en particulier les musulmans qui sont victimes d’une offensive raciste concertée des dirigeants politiques tant nationalistes que fédéralistes.

Québec Solidaire : cinquième roue du PQ

La lutte étudiante met de nouveau en lumière la réalité de la division nationale entre le Canada anglais et le Québec. Pendant les premières semaines, la presse bourgeoise anglo-canadienne a fait un black-out total sur les manifestations. Puis, lorsque la violence des flics contre les étudiants a pris de l’ampleur, la presse s’est mise à dénoncer les grévistes étudiants, avec une forte dose de mépris et d’anglo-chauvinisme. Les conservateurs de Harper, originaires de l’Ouest du Canada, ne prennent même plus en compte le Québec dans leurs calculs électoraux, et sont entrain de mettre en œuvre des politiques réactionnaires sur la criminalité, l’armée, la monarchie et l’environnement qui, aux yeux de la plupart des Québécois, semblent venir de la planète Mars. Les divers éditorialistes et commentateurs anglo-canadiens qui avaient proclamé (une fois de plus) la « mort » de la question nationale au Québec sont maintenant bien embarrassés.

Le Québec est une société distincte et de plus en plus séparée de celle du reste du Canada. L’anglo-chauvinisme, et le nationalisme québécois qu’il favorise, ont longtemps servi à diviser la classe ouvrière selon des lignes nationales, ce qui ne fait que renforcer l’illusion selon laquelle les ouvriers et « leurs » patrons respectifs auraient des intérêts communs. En tant qu’internationalistes prolétariens, nous marxistes sommes pour l’indépendance du Québec. C’est le moyen de couper le nœud gordien et d’enlever la question nationale de l’ordre du jour politique ; cela servirait à montrer aux ouvriers des deux nations qu’ils n’ont aucun allié parmi leurs propres capitalistes. Cela enlèverait par conséquent un obstacle important à la lutte commune de la classe ouvrière contre le système capitaliste.

Le PQ a pour objectif de construire un Québec capitaliste indépendant au service de la bourgeoisie québécoise. Un certain nombre d’ouvriers et de jeunes radicalisés qui cherchent une alternative se sont détachés de lui à cause de ses multiples attaques au nom de l’austérité lorsqu’il était au pouvoir. L’organisation petite-bourgeoise populiste Québec Solidaire (QS) en est un des sous-produits. Ils se disent solidaires des revendications de la grève étudiante, mais fin avril, alors que les luttes avaient atteint un point culminant, le dirigeant du QS Amir Khadir a lancé un « appel au calme ». Dans la même déclaration, QS critiquait la violence policière et s’attaquait en même temps au soi-disant « vandalisme » des « casseurs » parmi les manifestants étudiants (, 26 avril).

Le programme de QS ne propose que des réformes superficielles afin de rendre le système capitaliste plus « social ». Cela n’est pas très différent du « projet de société » initial du PQ à la fin des années 1960 et pendant les années 1970. Comme pour insister là-dessus, les dirigeants de QS ont récemment tenté de conclure des accords de non-concurrence électorale avec le PQ capitaliste. Tout cela n’empêche bien entendu pas la majeure partie de la gauche pseudo-marxiste au Québec de soutenir QS, dans lequel ces groupes se sont plus ou moins liquidés. Que ce soit les deux ailes du Parti communiste, Gauche Socialiste, La Riposte, Alternative socialiste (AS) ou d’autres encore, ces réformistes présentent tous à tort QS comme une sorte d’étape vers le socialisme.

AS, un groupe affilié au Comité pour une internationale ouvrière de Peter Taaffe, a exposé cela de manière particulièrement claire dans un tract distribué aux manifestations du 1er mai cette année. Après avoir noté cyniquement que « QS n’est ni un parti de classe ni un parti socialiste », AS prétend que : « Néanmoins, QS a ouvert une brèche dans le discours dominant et contribue à faire prendre conscience à de plus en plus de gens que la source de nos problèmes, c’est le capitalisme. » Et portant le crétinisme parlementaire à de nouveaux sommets, AS conclut :

« Les issues possibles à la présente grève générale du mouvement étudiant montrent qu’il lui faut un relais politique au Parlement pour implanter ses projets et entretenir la flamme de la contestation lorsqu’elle s’essoufflera dans la rue. Ce ne sera pas sur le boul. René Lévesque que s’adoptera la gratuité scolaire. Lors des prochaines élections, les étudiant-e-s grévistes n’auront pas 36 solutions. Seul Québec solidaire défendra leurs positions. »

—« Pour un parti de masse des travailleur-euse-s ! »

L’idée même que « la flamme de la contestation » puisse brûler dans le salon bleu de l’Assemblée nationale est ridicule. Mais malgré son humour involontaire, AS exprime bien le programme politique réformiste que partagent tous les groupes de gauche au sein de QS. Autrement dit, le Québec c’est « notre Etat » et cet Etat peut servir les intérêts des ouvriers, de la jeunesse et des opprimés, si seulement on applique les bonnes politiques « sociales ». Pourtant c’est faux.

Certains des groupes qui soutiennent QS ont également salué la « vague orange » du NPD qui a déferlé sur le Québec lors de l’élection fédérale l’an dernier. La Riposte a, par exemple, déclaré que le succès du NPD était un rejet du « débat dépassé entre le Fédéralisme et le Nationalisme » et « une véritable occasion pour que la politique de classe vienne au devant de la scène et que le NPD devienne le véhicule politique de la riposte contre l’austérité de Harper » (, 3 mai 2011).

Quel rôle le NPD a-t-il donc joué dans la grève étudiante, la lutte sociale la plus importante du Québec depuis de nombreuses années ? Thomas Mulcair a demandé aux membres du parlement NPD de se taire pour éviter « de se mettre à dos » des électeurs « centristes » potentiels. Pourtant Mulcair, ancien ministre du conseil de Charest et avant cela, avocat de l’Alliance Quebec anglo-chauvine, s’est exprimé…mais pour dénoncer la « violence » des étudiants québécois (La Presse, 29 avril) ! Le NPD, qui a toujours été un parti social-démocrate de droite, essaye de plus en plus de couper les ponts avec les syndicats au Canada anglais. Les Néo-démocrates sont profondément opposés aux droits nationaux du Québec, et lorsque la question nationale redeviendra une question brûlante (ce qui est seulement une question de temps), ces contradictions feront éclater le parti au Québec. Les marxistes luttent contre toute illusion selon laquelle le NPD représenterait une alternative « progressiste » pour les ouvriers et la jeunesse.

L’appareil répressif de l’Etat capitaliste

L’intensité de la répression contre les grévistes étudiants témoigne d’une vérité marxiste fondamentale quant à la nature de l’Etat capitaliste. Les flics ont utilisé d’énormes quantités de gaz lacrymogène, de grenades incapacitantes et de balles en caoutchouc contre les étudiants, souvent après avoir déclaré les manifestations « illégales ». Lors de la manifestation du 4 mai contre le congrès du Parti libéral du Québec à Victoriaville, un étudiant a perdu un œil et un autre a été victime de blessures à la tête, qui auraient pu mettre sa vie en danger, après une agression policière particulièrement brutale. A la violence policière dans la rue s’ajoute la chasse aux sorcières menée par la police secrète du SCRS visant les militants anarchistes et divers groupes de gauche, y compris le Parti communiste révolutionnaire (PCR) maoïste. Selon un nouveau projet de loi fédérale, le port d’un masque par les manifestants est devenu un délit encourant des peines de prison pouvant aller jusqu’à dix ans.

L’Etat capitaliste n’est jamais un « arbitre neutre » et sa principale raison d’être, c’est de défendre la domination du capital. L’Etat est un instrument de répression contre la classe ouvrière et les opprimés. Il comprend les flics, les juges, les prisons et l’armée, qui dépendent du pouvoir exécutif du gouvernement. Comme le précisait Lénine, qui dirigea la Révolution russe de 1917 (la seule révolution ouvrière victorieuse de l’histoire), c’est « une machine pour l’oppression d’une classe par une autre » (l’Etat, 1919). Sous les Libéraux et le PQ, c’est bien évidemment le cas, mais il en va de même lorsque l’Etat est dirigé par des partis qui trompent les travailleurs en prétendant être de leur côté. Lorsqu’il est au pouvoir, comme en Ontario et en Colombie-Britannique dans les années 1990, le NPD gouverne toujours au service des patrons. Et si QS en a jamais l’occasion, il en fera autant.

La Riposte et Alternative socialiste prétendent scandaleusement que les flics sont des « ouvriers en uniforme », c’est-à-dire des alliés potentiels de la lutte ouvrière. Les trois derniers mois de lutte et de répression policière devraient mettre un terme à ces illusions. Ces organisations profondément réformistes sont toutes les deux issues du groupe Militant en Grande-Bretagne, qui est connu pour sa fidélité au Parti travailliste (et qui avait envoyé des avis de licenciement à quelque 30 000 travailleurs publics de la ville de Liverpool dans les années 1980 lorsqu’il en dirigeait le conseil municipal!).

Nous nous opposons aux accusations de « violence » que font le NPD et QS contre les manifestants étudiants, et appelons à défendre tous les militants pris dans les filets de l’Etat. Nous exigeons la levée de toutes les inculpations. La presse s’est particulièrement acharnée contre le « vandalisme » de manifestants qui s’en sont pris à des bureaux d’administration universitaire ainsi qu’à des symboles du pouvoir des grosses entreprises. Du point de vue de la classe ouvrière, des actions de ce type ne sont pas des crimes. Ce qui est criminel c’est la brutalité policière contre les étudiants grévistes et la barbarie bien plus grave encore du système capitaliste dans son ensemble. Cependant, la politique d’« action directe » préconisée par divers anarchistes n’est qu’une expression de rage impuissante. La lutte sociale doit, pour être victorieuse, chercher à mobiliser la puissance de la classe ouvrière, et cela est directement lié à la lutte pour la direction révolutionnaire du prolétariat.

Certains anarchistes et maoïstes dénoncent le mouvement ouvrier organisé qu’ils accusent d’être « acheté » et réactionnaire. Le PCR maoïste, par exemple, déclare que le mouvement syndical au Québec « est devenu en fait un instrument aux mains des capitalistes pour contrôler et mater la classe ouvrière », ajoutant : « Mais ce n’est pas qu’une simple question d’orientation, qu’il suffirait de modifier pour en changer la nature profonde » (« Programme du Parti communiste révolutionnaire »). Ceci efface toute distinction entre la base ouvrière des syndicats et la bureaucratie pro-capitaliste, qui est une caste parasitaire qui repose sur le mouvement ouvrier et qui bénéficie de quelques miettes de la table des patrons. Le PCR qui refuse de soutenir les syndicats, c’est-à-dire les organisations de défense fondamentales de la classe ouvrière, dévoile ensuite sa propre perspective de collaboration de classe : selon lui, « la guerre populaire prolongée » constituerait « la voie de la révolution au Canada ». Non seulement cela est ridicule, mais cela est en contradiction totale avec la centralité du prolétariat selon le marxisme.

Puis il y a les bandits politiques du Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES) et leur « World Socialist Web Site ». Dans une déclaration du 16 avril sur la grève étudiante, cette organisation dit (en gras !) : « Il faut rejeter l’orientation vers les syndicats ». Et ils ajoutent : « Ici comme partout ailleurs dans le monde, le rôle des syndicats est de soumettre les travailleurs au système de profit et à l’État capitaliste ». Une « version corrigée » de la même déclaration, publiée en anglais deux jours plus tard, est encore plus explicite et appelle à aider les ouvriers « à se libérer des syndicats pro-capitalistes ». Le PES se fait parfois passer pour trotskyste, mais son désir de destruction des syndicats converge avec les intérêts des patrons capitalistes. Il en va de même pour leur position sur la question nationale, où ils se font les échos de la bourgeoisie chauvine anglo-canadienne en s’opposant au droit du Québec à l’autodétermination.

La destruction des syndicats aurait inévitablement comme conséquence une diminution des salaires et des avantages sociaux, ainsi que des conditions de travail plus dangereuses. Il faut défendre les syndicats contre les attaques des patrons. En même temps, il faut chasser la bureaucratie syndicale pro-capitaliste et se battre pour une direction menant une lutte de classe contre la politique du nationalisme bourgeois. C’est le seul moyen de transformer les syndicats en organisations luttant pour l’émancipation de la classe ouvrière.

La classe ouvrière du Québec, alliée à la jeunesse étudiante en lutte, peut jouer un rôle important pour revigorer le mouvement ouvrier nord-américain, meurtri par des décennies d’austérité et de cassage de grèves. La grève générale spontanée de mai 1972 au Québec, contre l’emprisonnement de dirigeants syndicaux, a bien montré cette puissance. Mais au bout du compte, les aspirations des ouvriers québécois ont été contenues dans le cadre du nationalisme bourgeois que représentait le PQ. Pour que la puissance du prolétariat puisse se mettre en branle, il faut rompre politiquement avec ce type de nationalisme, y compris sa variante « de gauche » actuelle, Québec Solidaire.

Seule une révolution ouvrière qui renverse l’Etat capitaliste et le remplace par un Etat ouvrier, c’est-à-dire la dictature du prolétariat, est capable d’ouvrir la voie au socialisme. Pour cela il faut remplacer la démocratie bourgeoise (une « démocratie » pour les riches) par la démocratie ouvrière. C’est le seul moyen d’ouvrir la voie à la construction d’une société communiste égalitaire où la misère et la répression seront des reliques du passé.

La Ligue trotskyste/Trotskyist League lutte pour forger un parti ouvrier internationaliste binational et multiethnique, qui se consacre à la lutte pour des révolutions de ce type à travers le Canada, l’Amérique du Nord et au-delà. Cela fait partie intégrante de notre perspective de reforger la Quatrième Internationale, parti mondial de la révolution socialiste. Après les luttes difficiles de ces derniers mois, nous invitons les militants étudiants qui cherchent un programme plus général pour la libération sociale à examiner le programme du trotskysme authentique.

From the Pen Of Peter Paul Markin-From The “Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night” Series- Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die- British Style

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for Pirate Radio.

First Question: Who put the rock in rock ‘n’ roll? Well, of course, Bo Diddley did (okay, okay others too). That’s his story anyway and who would deny his input. Certainly not I. Not when you listen to Who Do You Love? or Bo Diddley(the song). But there is more. I have gone on and on about the formative influences of the jail-break music of my generation, the generation of ’68. The blues as they headed north up the Mississippi (and other rivers) and got electrified in Chicago, Detroit and other migratory Midwest black enclaves. The blue after a while, post-World War II after a while, getting a little jazz-influenced and more sophisticated as the blue milieu settled in its northern climes and got be-bop R&B along the way. And, of course, down other southern rivers a bunch white good old boys (in the making anyway) making hillbilly music jump, electric Les Paul jump, a notch with rockabilly. Guys like Carl Perkins, Elvis and Jerry Lee. Mix that all together with Ms. Patti Page, Mr. Bing Crosby (oops, forgot these last two names) and I don’t know about you but that spells jail-break, 1950s jail-break to me.

Second Question: Who brought rock ‘n’ roll to your double-locked secret security code armed camp bedroom, hideaway dank cellar, pressed for space storage-filled garage, or other secret ear place back in old time battery-operated transistor radio days (pre-iPod, MP3 alright) ? Well, of course, your local dee-jay (DJ, if you insist) who helped you while away your night, your dream-plagued rock ‘n’ roll night, with his (mainly hes) mile-a-minute-banter, selection of platters (records, 45s and LPs, pre-CD, DVD, iTunes, YouTube, you’ve heard about them, right?), and, yes, selected advertising targeted to the newly enriched (maybe) teenager with disposable dollars.
Disposable income to while away the date nights at double feature stale popcorn drive-in movies, fatted hamburger, fries and soda drive-in restaurants, and drive-into town to the get the very latest 45 and LP platters (records).

The pantheon airways of hallowed such names as Allan Freed, Wolfman Jack, Murry the K, and Arnie Ginsberg come quickly to mind. The best of the lot though came out of the midnight, the Sunday midnight air, of Chicago with Mr. Magic Bill’s (don’t forget the mister part when you address him, he didn’t) Blues Hour where despite its name (and origin) had all the cutting edge stuff before it became cutting edge stuff like Irma Thomas, Etta James, Francie Knight, and the early Platters. Although the music, praise be, outlasted the careers and remembrance of that lot of dee-jays (including Mr. Magic Bill) this classic rock period has always been associated in my mind (and yours too, I bet) with that very dee-jay transistor radio night.

But what about when rock headed overseas, over to the homeland (okay, okay homeland for some of us, the British Isles). That my friends, was a very different experience, rock British version.

In many ways the British 1960s rock explosion paralleled the American classic rock scene, although later than that genre’s American 1950s heyday. The greatest difference, however, was the way that British audiences heard their rock- literally through the pirate radio. Off-shore, out in the ocean depths, white waves splashing against some barnacled old tub of a ship, rock radio. Without getting into the ins and outs of British broadcasting traditions the battle, the age-old battle really, here was between those who wanted to listen to rock and not just in that double-locked bedroom mentioned above, and those nasty governmental officials and their hangers-on who wanted to outlaw it by shutting down this uncontrolled method. Sound familiar?

That battle drove British teens wild to an almost bizarre ends (by today’s cyberspace ease of listening to any damn thing you want, whenever you want , or what somebody decides to put on standards). But get this those British dee-jays like their American counterparts were a bunch of guys (mainly, again) who loved to play rock, who loved to present it in their own fashion, and who wanted the fame, fortune (and, incidental sex) that came with heroic dee-jay-dom out on the briny.

One motley crew (not the group) was I heard ready to go down with the ship, literally, in order to keep rock freedom alive when the authorities pulled the hammer. Of course there were, like American radio with its bongs, gongs and dongs, more than a few gag shows (although British gag, a la Monty Python) provided on air that were better left unmentioned. But there were plenty of drugs, sex, and rock and roll on the high seas. Jesus. You might ask what was wrong with that. Ah, come to think about what was wrong with that? The culture police are listening, or at least your disapproving parents.

One famous dee-jay, the Count, the only American in the lot from what I understand, was allegedly a real wild man. But think about this whole mix of radio personalities, American and British, beaming our music in the good midnight air or out in the seas rock night, late night, early morning and so on. So, here is the drill. Bo (and, yes, others) put the rock in rock ‘n’ roll but the Count and the boys put the bop in the be-bop pirate radio night.

Friday, July 27, 2012

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin -Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘50s Song Night-The Teen Queens’ “Eddy My Love” (1956) - An Anniversary, Of Sorts

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Teen Queens performing the classic Eddie My Love.

Markin comment:

This space is noted for politics mainly, and mainly the desperate political fight against various social, economic and moral injustices and wrongs in this wicked old world, although the place where politics and cultural expression, especially post World War II be-bop cultural expression, has drawn some of my interest over the past several years. The most telling example of that interest is in the field of popular music, centrally the blues, city and country, good woman on your mind, hardworking, hard drinking blues and folk music, mainly urban, mainly protest to high heaven against the world’s injustices, smite the dragon down, folk music. Of late though the old time 1950s kid, primordial, big bang, jail-break rock and roll music that set us apart from earlier generations has drawn my attention. Mostly by reviewing oldies CDs but here, and occasionally hereafter under this headline, specifically songs that some future archeologists might dig up as prime examples of how we primitives lived ,and what we listened to back in the day, the Stone Age day.

(Aaron Collins / Maxwell Davis / Sam Ling)

The Teen Queens - 1956
The Fontane Sisters - 1956
The Chordettes - 1956
Dee Dee Sharp - 1962

Also recorded by:
Lillian Briggs; Jo Ann Campbell; The Sweethearts.

Eddie, my love, I love you so
How I wanted for you, you'll never know
Please, Eddie, don't make me wait too long

Eddie, please write me one line
Tell me your love is still only mine
Please, Eddie, don't make me wait too long

You left me last September
To return to me before long
But all I do is cry myself to sleep
Eddie, since you've been gone

Eddie, my love, I'm sinking fast
The very next day might be my last
Please, Eddie, don't make me wait too long

You left me last September
To return to me before long
But all I do is cry myself to sleep
Eddie, since you've been gone

Eddie, my love, I'm sinking fast
The very next day might be my last
Please, Eddie, don't make me wait too long

Please, Eddie, don't make me wait too long

(Transcribed from the Teen Queens
recording by Mel Priddle - May 2006)

If I said teen angst and teen alienation on this one, Eddie My Love, that is all I need to say, right? We all, one way or the other, went through those emotional turmoils whether we knew enough to know about the words alienation and angst or not. And we related to songs, rock, doo wop, or whatever that spoke to those trials and tribulations. Eddie My Love is a classic in that genre. Not one that you and your sweetie would call a favorite, not one that you prayed to the teen music local school dance record hop dee-jay gods to play for the last dance but one that you keep playing to keep your own midnight by the phone blues away.

Now the story line here is classic teen angst. I am right this minute constructing a very complicated instrument, a technological marvel of the ages, an angst-o-meter, to give an accurate reading of how high or low each song in this series ranks. This one, with or without, instrumentation ranks high. Why? Eddie, a summer love apparently, has flown the coop and, ah, let’s call her Betty, Betty and Eddy, yah that sounds right is pining away to no avail. Maybe she is thinking about those words from the song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? after letting Eddie have his way on that sandy beach last summer. And she is now frantic about being left behind just in case. Just in case, you know, she is as we say, euphemistically, “in the family way.” Hell, we are all adults here and it is 2011 so we need not shillyshally around, and besides no self-respecting child over the age of about eight would be reading this stuff. She might be pregnant. That would account for the distress, duress, and near suicidal frenzy of her plea.

Betty, Betty forget it. Eddie, old two-timing, love ‘em and leave them, Eddie ain’t coming back. Whether you are sinking fast, or not. Truth: old Eddie was last seen down in San Juan, Puerto Rico using the name, Juan Cintron, and, Betty, brace yourself, walking, walking very closely with Linda, and she’s a beauty.

But here is my post hoc advice for what it is worth. Why didn’t you decide to go out with steady as a rock Billy, that sensitive, maybe a little nerdy, soul who was pining away for you while you had nothing but eyes for old fast-moving, sweet dual carb, hot rod-driving, fast-talking speedo Eddie? Now it’s too late, girl. Oh, by the way, you were much better off without old petty larceny, world-owes-him-a-living, lamp-shade-on-his-head life of the party that he turned out to be twenty years later Eddie. And that ain’t no lie.

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin- From The “Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night” Series - When Frankie, Frankie From The Old Neighborhood, Was King

In a series of entries that formed scenes, scenes from the hitchhike road in search of the great American West night in the late 1960s, later than the time of Frankie’s early 1960s old working class neighborhood kingly time, it was noted by me that there had been about a thousand truck stop diner stories left over from those old hitchhike road days. On reflection though, I realized that there really had been about three diner stories with many variations. Not so with Frankie, Frankie from the old neighborhood, stories. I have got a thousand of them, or so it seems, all different. Hey, you already, if you have been attentive, know a few Frankie, Frankie from the old neighborhood, stories (okay, I will stop, or try to, stop using that full designation and just call him plain, old, ordinary, vanilla Frankie just like everybody else alright).

Yah, you already know the Frankie (see I told you I could do it) story about how he lazily spent a hot late August 1960 summer before entering high school day working his way up the streets of the old neighborhood to get some potato salad (and other stuff too) for his family’s Labor Day picnic. And he got a cameo appearance in the tear-jerk, heart-rendering saga of my first day of high school in that same year where I, vicariously, attempted to overthrow his lordship with the nubiles (girls, for those not from the old neighborhood, although there were plenty of other terms of art to designate the fair sex then, most of them getting their start in local teenage social usage from Frankie’s mouth). That effort, that attempt at coping his “style”, like many things associated with one-of-a-kind Frankie, as it turned out, proved unsuccessful.

More recently I took you in a roundabout way to a Frankie story in a review of a 1985 Roy Orbison concert documentary, Black and White Nights. That story centered around my grinding my teeth whenever I heard Roy’s Running Scared because one of Frankie’s twists (see nubiles above) played the song endlessly to taint the love smitten but extremely jealous Frankie on the old jukebox at the pizza parlor, old Salducci's Pizza Shop, that we used to hang around in during our off-hour high school days. It’s that story, that already told drugstore soda fountain story, that brought forth a bunch of memories about those pizza parlor days and how Frankie, for most of his high school career, was king of the hill at that locale. And king, king arbiter, of the social doings of those around him as well.

And who was Frankie? Frankie of one thousand stories, Frankie of one thousand treacheries, Frankie of one thousand kindnesses, and, oh yah, Frankie, my bosom friend in high school. Well, let me just steal some sentences from that old August summer walk story and that first day of school saga because really Frankie and I went back to perilous middle school days (a.k.a. junior high days for old-timers) when he saved my bacon more than one time, especially from making a fatal mistake with the frails (see nubiles and twists above). He was, maybe, just a prince then working his way up to kingship. But even he, as he endlessly told me that summer before high school, August humidity doldrums or not, was along with the sweat on his brow from the heat a little bit anxious about being “little fish in a big pond” freshmen come that 1960 September.

Especially, a pseudo-beatnik “little fish”. See, he had cultivated a certain, well, let’s call it "style" over there at the middle school. That “style” involved a total disdain for everything, everything except trying to impress girls with his long-panted, flannel-shirted, work boot-shod, thick book-carrying knowledge of every arcane fact known to humankind. Like that really was the way to impress teenage girls, then or now. Well, as it turned out, yes it was. Frankie right. In any case he was worried, worried sick at times that in such a big school his “style” needed upgrading. Let’s not even get into that story, the Frankie part of it now, or maybe, ever. We survived high school, okay.

But see, that is why, the Frankie why, the why of my push for the throne, the kingship throne, when I entered high school and that old Frankie was grooming himself for like it was his by divine right. When the deal went down and I knew I was going to the “bigs” (high school) I spent that summer, reading, big time booked-devoured reading. Hey, I'll say I did, The Communist Manifesto, that one just because old Willie Westhaven over at the middle school (junior high, okay) called me a Bolshevik when I answered one of his foolish math questions in a surly manner. I told you before that was my pose, my Frankie-engineered pose, what do you want; I just wanted to see what he, old Willie, was talking about when he used that word. How about Democracy in America (by a French guy), The Age of Jackson (by a Harvard professor who knew idol Jack Kennedy, personally, and was crazy for old-time guys like Jackson), and Catcher In The Rye (Holden was me, me to a tee). Okay, okay I won’t keep going on but that was just the reading on the hot days when I didn’t want to go out. There was more.

Here's what was behind the why. I intended, and I swear I intended to even on the first nothing doing day of that new school year in that new school in that new decade (1960) to beat old Frankie, old book-toting, mad monk, girl-chasing Frankie, who knew every arcane fact that mankind had produced and had told it to every girl who would listen for two minutes (maybe less) in that eternal struggle, the boy meets girl struggle, at his own game. Yes, Frankie, my buddy of buddies, prince among men (well, boys, anyhow) who kindly navigated me through the tough, murderous parts of junior high, mercifully concluded, finished and done with, praise be, and didn’t think twice about it. He, you see, despite, everything I said a minute ago he was “in.”; that arcane knowledge stuff worked with the “ins” who counted, worked, at least a little, and I got dragged in his wake. I always got dragged in his wake, including as lord chamberlain in his pizza parlor kingdom.

What I didn’t know then, wet behind the ears about what was what in life's power struggles, was if you were going to overthrow the king you’d better do it all the way. But, see if I had done that, if I had overthrown him, I wouldn’t have had any Frankie stories to tell you, or help with the frills in the treacherous world of high school social life (see nubiles, frails and twists above. Why don’t we just leave it like this. If you see the name Frankie and a slangy word when you think I am talking about girls, that's girls. Okay?)

As I told you in that Roy Orbison review, when Roy was big, big in our beat down around the edges, some days it seemed beat six ways to Sunday working class neighborhood in the early 1960s, we all used to hang around the town pizza parlor, or one of them anyway, that was also conveniently near our high school as well. Maybe this place was not the best one to sit down and have a family-sized pizza with salad and all the fixings in, complete with family, or if you were fussy about décor but the best tasting pizza, especially if you let it cool for a while and no eat it when it was piping hot right out of the oven.

Moreover, this was the one place where the teen-friendly owner, a big old balding Italian guy, Tonio Salducci, at least he said he was Italian and there were plenty of Italians in our town in those days so I believed him but he really looked Greek or Armenian to me, let us stay in the booths if it wasn’t busy, and we behaved like, well, like respectable teenagers. And this guy, this old Italian guy, blessed Leonardo-like master Tonio, could make us all laugh, even me, when he started to prepare a new pizza and he flour-powdered and rolled the dough out and flipped that sucker in the air about twelve times and about fifteen different ways to stretch it out. Sometimes people would just stand outside in front of the doubled-framed big picture window and watch his handiwork in utter fascination.

Jesus, Tonio could flip that thing. One time, and you know this is true because you probably have your own pizza dough on the ceiling stories, he flipped the sucker so high it stuck to the ceiling, right near the fan on the ceiling, and it might still be there for all I know (the place still is, although not him). But this is how he was cool; he just started up another without making a fuss. Let me tell you about him, Tonio, sometime but right now our business to get on with Frankie, alright.

So there is nothing unusual, and I don’t pretend there is, in just hanging out having a slice of pizza (no onions, please, in case I get might lucky tonight and that certain she comes in, the one that I have been eyeing in school all week until my eyes have become sore, that thin, long blondish-haired girl wearing those cashmere sweaters showing just the right shape, please, please, James Brown, please come in that door), some soft drink (which we called tonic in New England in those days but which you called, uh, soda), usually a locally bottled root beer, and, incessantly (and that "incessantly" allowed us to stay since we were paying customers with all the rights and dignities that status entailed, unless, of course, they needed our seats), dropping nickels, dimes and quarters in the jukebox.

But here is where it all came together, Frankie and Tonio the pizza guy, from day one, got along like crazy. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, map of Ireland, red-headed, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Frankie got along like crazy with Italian guy Tonio. That was remarkable in itself because, truth be told, there was more than one Irish/ Italian ethnic, let me be nice, dispute in those days. Usually over “turf”, like kids now, or some other foolish one minute thing or another. Moreover, and Frankie didn’t tell me this for a while, Frankie, my bosom buddy Frankie, like he was sworn to some Omerta oath, didn’t tell me that Tonio was “connected.” For those who have been in outer space, or led quiet lives, or don’t hang with the hoi polloi that means with the syndicate, the hard guys, the Mafia. If you don’t get it now go down and get the Godfather trilogy and learn a couple of things, anyway. This "connected" stemmed, innocently enough, from the jukebox concession which the hard guys controlled and was a lifeblood of Tonio's teenage-draped business, and not so innocently, from his role as master numbers man (pre-state lottery days, okay) and "bookie" (nobody should have to be told what that is, but just in case, he took bets on horses, dogs, whatever, from the guys around town, including, big time, Frankie's father, who went over the edge betting like some guys fathers' took to drink).

And what this “connected” also meant, this Frankie Tonio-connected meant, was that no Italian guys, no young black engineer-booted, no white rolled-up tee-shirted, no blue denim- dungaree, no wide black-belted, no switchblade-wielding, no-hot-breathed, garlicky young Italian studs were going to mess with one Francis Xavier Riley, his babes (you know what that means, right?), or his associates (that’s mainly me). Or else. Now, naturally, connected to "the connected" or not, not every young tough in any working- class town, not having studied, and studied hard, the sociology of the town, was going to know that some young Irish punk, one kind of "beatnik” Irish punk with all that arcane knowledge in order to chase those skirts and a true vocation for the blarney was going to know that said pizza parlor owner and its “king”, king hell king, were tight. Especially at night, a weekend night, when the booze has flowed freely and that hard-bitten childhood abuse that turned those Italian guys (and Irish guys too) into toughs hit the fore. But they learn, and learn fast.

Okay, you don’t believe me. One night, one Saturday night, one Tonio-working Saturday night (he didn’t always work at night, not Saturday night anyway, because he had a honey, a very good-looking honey too, dark hair, dark laughing eyes, dark secrets she wouldn’t mind sharing as well it looked like to me but I might have been wrong on that) two young toughs came in, Italian toughs from the look of them. This town then , by the way, if you haven’t been made aware of it before was strictly white, mainly Irish and Italian, so any dark guys, are Italian period, not black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian or anything else. Hell, I don’t think those groups even passed through; at least I don’t remember seeing any, except an Arab, once.

So Frankie, your humble observer (although I prefer the more intimate umbrella term "associate" under these circumstances) and one of his squeezes (not his main squeeze, Joanne) were sitting at the king’s table (blue vinyl-seated, white Formica table-topped, paper place-setting, condiment-ladened center booth of five, front of double glass window, best jukebox and sound position, no question) splitting a Saturday night whole pizza with all the fixings (it’s getting late, about ten o’clock, and I have given up on that certain long blondish-haired she who said she might meet so onions anchovies, garlic for all I know don’t matter right now) when these two ruffians come forth and petition (yah, right) for our table. Our filled with pizza, drinks, condiments, odds and ends papery, and the king, his consort (of the evening, I swear I forget which one) and his lord chamberlain.

Since there were at least two other prime front window seats available Frankie denied the petition out of hand. Now in a righteous world this should have been the end of it. But what these hard guys, these guys who looked like they might have had shivs (yah, knives, shape knives, for the squeamish out there) and only see two geeky "beatnik" guys and some unremarkable signora do was to start to get loud and menacing (nice word, huh?) toward the king and his court. Menacing enough that Tonio, old pizza dough-to-the-ceiling throwing Tonio, took umbrage (another nice word, right?) and came over to the table very calmly. He called the two gentlemen aside, and talking low and almost into their ears, said some things that we could not hear. All we knew was that about a minute later these two behemoths, these two future candidates for jailbird-dom, were walking; I want to say walking gingerly, but anyway quickly, out the door into the hard face of Saturday night.

We thereafter proceeded to finish our kingly meal, safe in the knowledge that Frankie was indeed king of the pizza parlor night. And also that we knew, now knew in our hearts because Frankie and I talked about it later, that behind every king there was an unseen power. Christ, and I wanted to overthrow Frankie. I must have been crazy, crazy as a loon.